Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention Tips
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. This article aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of CTS.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
CTS is typically characterized by numbness, tingling, or weakness in the hand and fingers, particularly the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. These symptoms often develop gradually and may worsen during the night. If not treated, the syndrome may lead to decreased grip strength and the inability to perform tasks that involve fine motor skills.
The syndrome’s name originates from the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments at the base of your hand, where the median nerve resides. Any swelling in this tunnel can lead to the nerve’s compression, causing the symptoms of CTS.
Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
CTS is diagnosed through a combination of your medical history, physical examination, and specialized nerve tests. Your healthcare provider may ask you about your symptoms, their frequency and duration, and any activities that seem to trigger or worsen them.
During the physical examination, your provider might test the feeling in your fingers and the strength of the muscles in your hand. They might also perform Tinel’s sign test (tapping on the median nerve) or Phalen’s sign test (flexing your wrists) to reproduce symptoms.
Further diagnostic tests, such as nerve conduction studies or electromyography, may be used to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of nerve damage.
Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The treatment approach for CTS depends on the severity of symptoms and any underlying conditions that could be contributing to the syndrome.
For mild symptoms, non-surgical treatments can be effective. These may include:
- Wrist splinting: Wearing a splint at night can keep your wrist in a neutral position, reducing pressure on your median nerve.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Corticosteroids: These powerful anti-inflammatory drugs can be taken orally or injected into the carpal tunnel to relieve symptoms.
If these treatments do not improve your symptoms or if nerve damage is severe, surgical intervention may be necessary. Carpal tunnel release surgery is a procedure designed to relieve pressure on the median nerve by cutting the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel.
While it’s not always possible to prevent CTS, you can take steps to minimize stress on your hands and wrists and reduce your risk:
- Mind your form: Avoid bending your wrist all the way up or down. A relaxed, middle position is best. If you type, keep your keyboard at elbow height or slightly lower.
- Take frequent breaks: If you perform repeated hand or wrist activities, give your hands and wrists a break by gently stretching and bending them periodically.
- Stay healthy: Underlying health conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid gland imbalance can increase your risk of CTS. Stay on top of your overall health with regular check-ups.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of CTS, so maintaining a healthy weight might be beneficial.
- Protect your hands: If you use tools that vibrate or require a great amount of force, wearing protective gloves can help.
Workers Compensation Treatment
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is an over-use injury, often caused by repetitive movements during the course of employment. If you are experiencing the symptoms of CTS and you believe that it may be the result of your work, please visit the following article for more information on how CTS may be treated by Workers Compensation.
Remember, if you’re experiencing persistent numbness, tingling, or weakness in your hand, consult with a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term damage and restore hand function.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be a significant barrier to daily tasks and quality of life, but with the right diagnosis, treatment, and preventative measures, it can be effectively managed. Stay proactive about your hand health and consult your healthcare provider if you suspect you might have this condition.